Sand is future glass, so get in the car,
fast-forward into the future, and stand
on the giant glass bridge of the beach.
We can listen to the waves while we stare
at the creatures frozen below, encapsulated—
there’s a crab mid-stride and there’s a plastic
cup. There will always be a band-aid, and we’re lucky—
the washed-up jellyfish is under glass—just
step right on it and laugh. Mostly there’s just rock, though,
and it’s too hard to sit on all day. Let’s take the car
to the diner and the past. Let’s stare out the window
and watch the fish bones and shells, glistening in the sun.
Danielle Hanson is the author of Fraying Edge of Sky (Codhill Press Poetry Prize, 2018) and Ambushing Water (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in over 70 journals, won the Vi Gale Award from Hubbub, was Finalist for 2018 Georgia Author of the Year Award and was nominated for several Pushcarts and Best of the Nets. She is Poetry Editor for Doubleback Books, and is on the staff of the Atlanta Review. Her poetry has been the basis for visual art included in the exhibit EVERLASTING BLOOM at the Hambidge Center Art Gallery, and Haunting the Wrong House, a puppet show at the Center for Puppetry Arts. More about her at daniellejhanson.com.
He looks like a more drunk, shorter Santa Claus, minus the charm & good cheer
except he’s got a fresh gash under his left eye that’s bleeding Christmas red & every word from his mouth is buckets, & I mean buckets, of cheap fifths of gin. This white homeless man, first asking then demanding a dollar from me & the woman I love in front of the pharmacy on the corner of 8th & University. I raise my hand, silent apology offered
as we move toward the door to find a birthday card for a friend. It’s people like you,
he says, catapulting his five-foot-four-and-a-half-inch frame into a monument of self-
righteous fury, and I’m talking to YOU, he barks the spit-laced words, calloused index finger nearly touching the raw umber hue of my fiancée’s clenched jaw—You’re not even
human, he says, you fucking monkey.
I knock him the fuck out—feel the sting
in my index & middle knuckles, relish
that crunch from when I sledgehammered
his jaw. His face becomes Mr. O’Reilly
telling me to stay out of trouble when
I came back to visit freshman year, it
becomes the mutiny of my body on
a dark street passing a man in a low-
pulled hoodie, it becomes my father’s
slight accent & my fifth grade friends
who giggled whenever he said the word
womens, it becomes my deeply buried
relief at knowing a cop protects me,
the time I carried my drunk hallmate
home in college, held her hair back
while she threw up for three hours, how
a hallway of mostly white faces still
assumes I fucked her.
When I write the story
in my head, I am always
the hero. In the old ones,
I was always the victim.
I easily have twenty pounds of muscle on this dude, not to mention
thirty years, seven inches, & one less extended tour at war—
not to mention enough light-skinned privilege of my own, enough
class benefit-of-the-doubt. I could pummel him into a coma
with a gang of NYPD officers nearby, explain why & have them chuckle,
nod, & say, Don’t worry, pal. We get it. Just clean up afterwards.
He follows us, my love in tears, as she retreats into the closest aisle.
I turn & face him: You just called my future wife a ‘monkey.’ Why?
You’re better than that. Imagine someone said that to a person
you love. And his eyes suddenly arrive—no longer
in Vietnam or his uncle’s basement in fourth grade chained
to a radiator or three decades’ worth of park benches—histrionic tears
start to drown the haphazard whiskers on his ruddy cheeks, as he pulls
sheets upon sheets of stolen frozen crabmeat from his tattered backpack,
his arms extended to her, offering them up as penance. The irony,
the allegory of this white man offering cold seafood to a Black woman
with a shellfish allergy.
A broken man has bullied the woman I love & anything I do will make me his bully.
I ask her, What would Darnell or Maurice do? What would Dr. King do? What would a ‘good man’ do? What should I have done? And again, the world demands answers from her but then mutes her response, silent as her voice in this poem, asking her to answer for something she has never owned nor sought. She’s between sobbing & punching the next man who talks, trying to busy her hands with Hallmark cards she can’t read through tears.
I imagine the scenario again, except this time while holding the hand of our six year-old
daughter & I am convinced that what just happened was either the bravest or most cowardly thing I have ever done.
I lie awake until we finally talk – she’s angry still,
the ache fresh as the gash on that hobo’s left cheek:
Honestly, fuck your social worker bullshit. He was
more important to you than me.
But, baby, what was I supposed to do? Beat his ass? What would that have done?
I don’t know, she says, I guess sometimes our options are only what is
At rest upon a body
of water without life
at the bottom of the earth
wedged between two peaks
in the middle of the Middle
East, serene resort
in the midst of a cluster
of ubiquitous crisscrossing
wars that are now just
landscape: two bodies
learn how to float again
for the first time. Two
best friends. Close
enough to the end to no
longer keep track of hours
or days. They carry
nearly two centuries
of stories and losses
and secrets between them
into this stinging cold
that refuses to let them
sink. Each refusing
to release the other’s
arthritic grip, knowing
they came here today to
let go—and so the lake
becomes a sea of schoolgirl
giggles hijacking their hoarse
throats, now laughing as
their scars make them
into glowing quilts beneath
the sheen of heavy salt. I see
only them in this sacred
pool that is closer to hell
than any other, called Dead
because nothing is able to
survive its grasp for too
long and yet here they are:
two old ladies who’ve defied
Carlos Andrés Gómez
Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian American poet and the author of Hijito, selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the winner of the 2018 Broken River Prize. Winner of the Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize, Fischer National Poetry Prize, Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry, his writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in the New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Yale Review, BuzzFeed Reader, The Rumpus, Rattle, CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape (Simon & Schuster, 2012), and elsewhere. Carlos is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. —Ben Franklin
Right after my mother moved
to South Carolina, a man approached her
after church to show her the Confederate flag
in a stained glass window.
If this took place in a novel,
most readers would be able to deconstruct
the authorial intent
implied by a white man
showing a black woman
In Los Angeles, I drove an Oldsmobile,
a symbol of American engineering,
mass production, luxury . . .
It was a couch on wheels,
and one the most likely vehicles
to be used in the commission of a crime.
I could roam the streets of South Central
but in the Valley
I’d be pulled over for DWB.
In the rain and through a green-caged enclosure,
I marveled at a maimed bald eagle
and pondered at how
before the Constitution, the presidency,
the Bill of Rights, we placed it on a seal,
then took it near extinction.
It shrugged its 6-feet of wings
and let out
an impressive scat.
Michele Reese is a Daughter of the American Revolution and the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant. Her poetry focuses on this place of intersection as well as others including race, gender, and sexuality. She is the author of the poetry collection Following Phia. Her poems have also been published in several journals and anthologies including Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Oklahoma Review, Poetry Midwest, The Paris Review, The Tulane Review, Chemistry of Color: Cave Canem South Poets Responding to Art, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race, and Home is Where: An Anthology of African American Poets from the Carolinas. She is currently a Professor of English at the University of South Carolina Sumter.
All the students are sitting on the floor, so are several teachers,
even the principal. The visiting poet is sitting on a chair.
There are perhaps a dozen students — silent, serious, though
they exchange occasional knowing glances and smiles.
The visiting poet, too, is silent. So are four or five teachers
and the principal – the room soundless, except for exhalations
and the recorded message that harried them into this small room.
The room is the principal’s office and every available inch of floor
is occupied by the eighteen people summarily herded by the principal
into his inner sanctum. For once, the visiting poet is voiceless,
no well rehearsed lines on his lips, though his eyes take everything in.
The pre-recorded monotony of dread booms everywhere via the school
intercom — into every classroom, gym, washroom, office, stairwell.
This is a school lock-down.
Get into a classroom,
clear the hallways, or leave
the premises immediately.
The principal knows this is just a drill: a post-Columbine reality
of departments of education. His school has failed to measure up
in a previous time-trial at emptying halls, hence this repeat drill.
Teachers and students know the score. They know about the ominous
SWAT unit sweeping the halls for deranged gunmen and other such
non-conformists. Only the visiting poet is uncertain, wondering whether
he may somehow have inadvertently set all this in motion the moment
he set foot inside the school and headed towards the main office.
The principal checks his wrist watch again, giving it a shake as if to hasten time. The bored teens shift and re-shift their lank shapes as only teens can.
The teachers relax, their day now blessed by an extended recess.
The visiting poet muses on imagery inherent in the word lock-down,
its currency in prison language. Lockout, lockup, lock step, lock-box,
lock jaw, lock, stock and barrel. His mind spins combinations.
He has already noted the principal locked the door behind him
before sitting on the floor. It’s the first time the visiting poet has been
confined in a principal’s office – he reflects on the irony: it has taken
him almost a lifetime to achieve this rare distinction. He also realizes
that choosing to sit where he has, his head is the only target visible
above the window line. The poet has again made himself vulnerable.
The intercom monotony ceases as abruptly as it began. The principal
stands, thanks everyone for co-operating and this seminar of the silent
disperses. The pulsing din of academia bursts to life from the ashes
and in the visiting poet’s head metaphors ricochet everywhere,
as he now attempts to emulate the springy step of his nubile hostess,
trailing her down the now-raucous hall to where they await his poems.
Glen Sorestad is a well known Canadian poet from Saskatoon, who has published over twenty books of poems. His poems have appeared in over seventy anthologies and textbooks, in publications all over North America, in many other countries as well and have been translated into eight languages.
The latest research calls it misnaming, says
I likely look
nothing like her. Insists
it has nothing to do with aging, assures me
that the fact that both our names
start with K
is unimportant. In a half-
second, I learned this Scorpio dragon
shares the same semantic network
inside one man’s brain
and something else
located in an organ I won’t try to name
since I might say heart
when I mean penis, both
smoking, catching fire, and I guess
to everyone at some point:
you get excited, you get
confused, cup your hands to drink
from the same big bucket of love.
Kasandra S. Larsen
Kasandra Larsen’s work has appeared in Best New Poets 2012, Burningword Literary Journal, Under a Warm Green Linden and Into the Void, and is upcoming in The Halcyone Magazine’s/Black Mountain Press’ 64 Best Poets of 2018, among others. Her full-length poetry manuscript has been a finalist for the 2016 Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry, and a semifinalist for the 2017 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her chapbook STELLAR TELEGRAM won the 2009 Sheltering Pines Press Chapbook Award. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a poetry reader for the journal Bare Fiction (UK).